Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Unite to Remain

With only one break, I have been a candidate in a local constituency in every general election, Westminster or Welsh, since that ground-breaker in 1997. In that time I have seen the party's fortunes rise and fall, my own vote following that same path. Now that the post-coalition dip is behind us, and a new young leader has reinvigorated the Liberal Democrats, it is an exciting time to stand again for Neath.

But in 2019 there is a greater consideration than ambition for me or my party. Before any party can achieve a reforming social programme, Brexit must be ended. Brexit, with its burden of a decade of negotiating trade deals, piles of red tape for exporters, and the flight of both businesses and people, would reduce the nation's income, resulting in a fall in the government's income also.

People are fed up with politicians', and therefore the news media's, obsession with Brexit. Revoking the Article 50 letter would enable the House of Commons (and the European Parliament!) to get back to normal business. It would also restore hope to the (especially) young people who will again have the ability to travel throughout the Union for education, work or simply self-improvement. Conversely, the NHS can return to recruiting doctors and nurses from among our European cousins, a resource which we have relied on for many years. (Declaration of interest: my local party has mainland nationals in membership. They have contributed to Wales over the years. They have seen that their initial welcome has soured with the rise of xenophobia stirred up by the Brexit campaign, to the extent that they are preparing to leave us. The Tory government's hostile environment has not helped. It will take some time to restore their faith and that of their fellow-nationals in England and Wales, but we can take a first step on 12th December.)

Accordingly, when I was asked to stand down so that a single Remain candidate can be presented to the people of Neath, it did not take much persuasion. That candidate is Plaid Cymru's Daniel Williams. What eased my decision was that both Daniel and his party leader are clearly sincere Europhiles. I hope that he can replace a Labour member for Neath who has done not much more than follow the "soft Brexit" Corbyn line.

Of course, there will be hard-core liberals and social democrats who will never vote for a nationalist candidate, just as ardent nationalists would not support any of the other Westminster parties. The policy of outright independence, however illusory, will always come between us. There have been open hostilities between Plaid and Lib Dems elsewhere in Wales. I myself have criticised Plaid's former leader siding with the former First Minister in support of a managed withdrawal from the EU. In Neath and Port Talbot, the relationship is more of a wary cohabitation. However, for this particular election and for the greater good, I would recommend a vote for Daniel Wiliams in the Neath constituency.

Normal relations will resume before the Welsh general election ...

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